Donkey Konga GameCube Review

We all know Donkey Kong don’t we? He started out as Mario’s enemy, throwing barrels down on him in the classic arcade game. He then realised the error of his ways and became one of the good guys, starring in a string of his own platform games across Nintendo consoles. He even brought his family along for the ride….ah, Diddy Kong Racing, what a game!

All of these games were made by Rare, who left Nintendo last year in a highly publicised move to Microsoft. Nintendo, though, retained the licence on the Donkey Kong name, and, never being ones to do the expected, had ideas of their own about our favourite ape’s next game.

Nintendo handed the Donkey Kong licence over to Namco to create, of all things, a rhythm action game. So, will this continue the fine tradition of games from DK, or will the change of developer be too much to handle?

Read on and find out.

Graphics

Colourful. That’s the word that springs to mind. Due to the nature of the game, the graphics are the same, one game to the next, and do not in any way test the power of the GameCube. Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong and the rest of the gang, are lovingly recreated in 3D but, as with all rhythm games, the graphics aren’t really the point. Functional, yes, stunning, no.

Gameplay

This is where the title really comes into it’s own and begins to shine. The idea of the game is simple and anyone can play. It’s also ludicrously funny and addictive at the same time.

The game works like this. Using the included set of bongos, you must drum and clap in time with the tunes, trying to get the highest score possible at the end of each song. The game can be played with a GameCube controller, but this really does defeat the object.

Donkey Kong sits at the top left of the screen, behind his own set of bongos. He will mimic on screen all your actions whilst playing the game. Below him is the circular ‘sweet spot’. Circular symbols then move across the screen, right to left, with different symbols representing different actions. As these symbols move into the sweet spot, you must perfom the action. Depending on your timing, each action will be rated as good, ok, bad or miss.

The various symbols are as follows:

A yellow semi circle means you must hit the left hand side of the bongos.

A red semi circle means you must hit the right hand side of the bongos.

A pink full circle means you must hit both bongos together.

A star symbol means you must clap your hands. Cleverly, the bongos have a built in sensor so they know when you have clapped your hands together.

This all probably sounds more complicated in the description than it really is. Trust me, two minutes playing and you’ll have the symbols memorised easily.

The songs range from the catchy to the downright odd, as we might expect from the Japanese. Each song is rated in barrels next to it’s title, with less barrels meaning an easier song and more meaning a harder song. The easy songs are very easy, whilst the harder ones later on are insane. You’ll need the reflexes of Superman to score well on some of these.

The game has lots of modes of play in both one player and two player. Here are where some of the problems come in. With this being the Japanese version, all of the menus are in Japanese, making it difficult to know what you are choosing. I did search around on the net, though, and found an English translation of the ingame meuns. This simplifies things enormously and I will include the printed version of these instructions when we at Dark Zero despatch this game as the prize in our Nintendo DS design competition.

The other main problem is in 2 player mode, in that the game only comes with one set of bongos. This immediatley places the player with the control pad at a disadvantage, both in abilility to play the game and the fun they get from it. Played with a pad, I got bored of this game quickly. Played with the bongos, it’s one of the funniest and most entertaining games I have ever played.

The game modes range from the standard one off songs, to endurance modes for one player, to head to head modes for two players. My advice is to stick with alternating between players on the standard mode so everyone can use the bongos. It’s as much fun to watch this game be played as it is to play it yourself.

One final comment here. It is currently impossible to save in this game on a PAL GameCube. The game works fine with a freeloader, but this does not allow you to save. Thus, you won’t be able to take advantage of the high score tables the game keeps for you.

Sound

As stated earlier, the songs included range from very catchy, to really weird. You’ll have heard some of them, like La Bamba, but most are Japanese tunes that will be new to you. I’m sure that if the game ever gets to a European release, we’ll see a very different selection of songs here.

The sound is clear and of a high quality and easily does it’s job, though, so there’s little to fault.

Lifespan

This is one of those games that lends itself to short bouts of play. An hour with a few mates is superb fun, particularly after a few drinks when people aren’t afriad to look stupid. It’s not a game you’ll play for long sessions on your own, though, so if that’s your kind of gaming, look elsewhere.

Having said all that, you will still find yourself getting this game out on occasion, many months after you have bought it. Like you did with Samba de Amigo on the Dreamcast… remember?

Overall

Namco have done a good job with their first Donkey Kong title. The game is great fun and definitely retains that ‘Nintendo feel’ that we all know and love. It’s easy to pick up and play, but devilish to master, and it will even interest the non gamers in the family, just by virtue of the bongos and their novelty value.

Should you buy it on import? Well, it’s impossible to save and you need a translation or a friend fluent in Japanese to understand the menus, so I’d probably say no….not yet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of fun, but I have a feeling we’ll see a release over here and that version will be worth waiting for.

7.8/10

by

Version tested: GameCube